In a scene comparable to classic Groucho Marx and Mae West, with irreverent reverence Madea consoles one of the attempted robbers with a boisterous sermon conflating Noah, Jonah, and every other scriptural aqua-man.
The tears come mostly from April (Henson), the aunt too selfish to care for her niece and nephews, and the children unwanted by their family.
The songs, which nicely amplify the film's themes of feminism, faith, and family, are delivered by Henson, Mary J. Blige (as a sister lounge singer), and Gladys Knight (Pipless, as a church lady), whose pipes still thrill.
Hope is around the corner. Literally. For April's rowhouse is thisclose to the Baptist church that she once attended. The pastor there (Marvin Winans) is determined to shepherd her back. So is one of the parishioners, Sandino (Adam Rodriguez), a handsome Colombian refugee who proves to be catnip for both believers and fallen-away Christians.
A dramatist of the old school, Perry makes films in which stormy weather is inevitably followed by blue skies. Though no one would cite him for the cinematic qualities of his visually pedestrian films, Perry is a master conductor of emotions.
He elicits a top-notch performance from Henson, who is given more range here than in Talk to Me and Benjamin Button. And as foulmouthed Madea, he himself is irresistibly funny, an improbable mix of the madcap and the merciful.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl.